Friday, December 29, 2006
When divas go to Liberty Fund conferences
I'm back from vacation, I'm rested, and I'm ready to wade into a two-week-old blogosphere debate about whether libertarians are cultists.
Earlier this month grand conservative blogress diva Ann Althouse posted her thoughts about attending a Liberty Fund conference devoted to Frank S. Meyer's fusionism. I think it's safe to say that the conference scared the crap out of her:
I am struck -- you may think it is absurd for me to be suddenly struck by this -- but I am struck by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas. I'm used to the way lefties and liberals take themselves seriously and how deeply they believe. Me, I find true believers strange and -- if they have power -- frightening. And my first reaction is to doubt that they really do truly believe.Jonah Goldberg, who attended the same conference, dissents from Althouse's point of view:
I will say here I find this — to put it in as civil terms as I can — odd. I would note that Ann really believes some things too. Moreover, so do those people in Madison, Wisconsin — which is, I might add without fear of contradiction, far from an oasis of empiricism, realism and philosophical skepticism. But more importantly, the notion that stong conviction — AKA belief — is scary in and of itself can be the source of as much pain and illiberalism as certitude itself. Indeed, it is itself a kind of certitude I find particularly unredeeming.They have a fascinating exchange with each other on this topic over at bloggingheads.tv -- in which, bizarrely, Goldberg (the non-academic) seems to better comprehend how conferences about ideas work than Althouse (the academic). This has been followed by post-bloggingheads posts by both Goldberg and Althouse.
Over at Hit & Run, Ron Bailey provides a great amount of detail about Althouse's behavior at the conference itself (hat tip: Virginia Postrel). It sounds very.... diva-like. Bailey's conclusion: "I sure hope that Ann Althouse's behavior at the Liberty Fund colloquium is not example how 'intellectual discourse' is conducted in her law school classes in Madison, Wisconsin." Althouse has a lengthy fisking of Bailey's post here. [UPDATE: Goldberg posts his reaction here. Back at Hit & Run, Radley Balko weighs in as well. And for the liberal take on the whole shebang, check out the bloggingheads diavlog between Marc Schmitt and Jonathan Chait.]
Go read everything. Having attended a few Liberty Fund conferences myself, I'd offer the following thoughts:
1) Liberty Fund conferences attract idea geeks -- people who will stay up until 2:00 AM debating the merits and demerits of different ideas. That's kind of the point of these things.UPDATE: Althouse responds here:
Idea geeks. Okay. Well, my experience in legal academia is that people who try to get into the idea geek zone need to get their pretensions punctured right away. The sharp lawprof types I admire always see a veneer on top of something more important, and our instinct is to peel it off. What is your love of this idea really about? That's our method.I confess I'm not entirely sure what "geek zone mellow" means. I think Ann is warning the blogosphere that people in love with ideas qua ideas need someone to take a pragmatist hammer and whack them upside the head every once in a while.
All well and good. But my experience in political science -- particularly international relations -- is that a distressingly high percentage of legal academics write from such an atheoretical, normative perspective that they don't realize that underlying their legal and policy pragmatics are implicit theories that need to be exposed, prodded, probed, and (often) pierced. I might add that it is my fervent hope that legal academics keep on doing this, because it means that they will continue to provide empirical grist for my theoretical mill.
That said, the book on my nightstand right now is Adrian Vermeule and Eric Posner's Terror in the Balance: Security, Liberty, and the Courts -- and they have their own issues with civil libertarians. So I'll humbly exit this debate and go do some more
FINAL UPDATE: Jacob Levy gets the last, definitive word on the subject.
ANOTHER FINAL UPDATE... I'M NOT KIDDING THIS TIME... THIS IS LIKE THE DOUBLE-SECRET, TRIPLE-DOG-DARE FINAL UPDATE: And I am telling you Ann Althouse is not going anywhere until she has the final word.
So that's it. I'm just going to back away slowly from the keyboard now... no sudden moves... no metaphors... no prose stylings that Althouse could interpret as sexual imagery in any way whatsoever.... and, yes, I did it!! [Heh. You said "did it."--ed. D'Oh!!]
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
I'm not speaking to you
Over the next 48 hours I will be on a mini-vacation, at an attractive metropolitan locale, with my wife.... and without the children.
None of you will be coming along either.
Talk amongst yourselves, and enjoy the break.
Here's an opening question: does this Economic Policy Institute paper accurately assess American attitudes about the global economy?
Monday, December 25, 2006
When civil wars go transnational
Merry Christmas! In certain parts of the globe, that whole peace-on-earth-goodwill-towards-men business seems to be at a low ebb.
On its front page, the New York Times reports on two civil wars that: A) involve the United States directly or indirectly; and B) are also drawing in neighboring countries.
First, there's the obvious one -- Iraq. James Glanz and Sabrina Tavernise explain that some Iranians have had their hand caught in the cookie jar:
The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington.Then, according to Jeffrey Gettlemen, there's Somalia:
Ethiopia officially plunged into war with Somalia’s Islamist forces on Sunday, bombing targets inside Somalia and pushing ground troops deep into Somali territory in a major escalation that could turn Somalia’s internal crisis into a violent religious conflict that engulfs the entire Horn of Africa.[Hey, you forgot the possible civil war between Fatah and Hamas in Palestine!!--ed. You are correct -- but Eric Umansky has some thoughts on what the United States should not do there.]